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Being from Utah, I’ve got a somewhat jaded perspective when it comes to cycling climbs. Many of the climbs that are accessible right from Salt Lake City top out at nine or ten thousand feet. In France, that translates to around three thousand meters. So when I look at the profile of something like Alpe d’Huez, which tops out at 1860 meters, I kind of think…
But when you actually climb it, it feels more like this:
So while I did promise that I would be complaining my way across France, the reality is that I’ve usually been too tired, or passed out, or close to vomiting to do as much complaining as I had hoped. I’ll catch you up in this post though, and – since I’m on a rest day – I’ll try to pack in some solid whining.
Stage 1 – Getting to Provence
Our trip over was fairly uneventful. Steve and I had a direct flight to Paris from Salt Lake City, so my biggest worry was having my bike destroyed on the way over. I was convinced the TSA would open my bike box, completely unpack everything, smash the carbon bike to splinters purely out of malice, and sweep the pile back into the box with one of those “While we took naked x-ray pictures of you to post in the break room, we also raped your luggage” pamphlets. Accordingly, I took about 624 pictures of my bike during the packing process. I’ll just show you this one:
But I needn’t have worried. In Salt Lake City at least, they can’t fit something so large through their X-ray machine, so they inspect the box in the public area of the airport near the ticket counters. I was there to watch the whole thing, so they had to behave. Other than having to pay $150 to have my bike fondled, it was a non-event.
Neither Steve nor I slept on the way over, and we were determined to make it through the rest of the day without a nap, so once we dropped our luggage at the hotel, we went on a walking tour of Paris. We saw all the things you might expect, and some you wouldn’t. Naturally, we saw the Eiffel Tower.
And the Arc de Triomphe:
And we also found ourselves in a random Pride festival on our way to the Place de la Concorde.
Paris was sweltering hot, and ridiculously humid. And in all, we walked about 6 miles, sweating every step of the way. I hadn’t had a change of clothes since leaving home, what seemed like days before, so you can bet there was plenty of complaining. Steve can verify.
We did come up with a solid business idea though: French Air Conditioning Salesman. It seems they don’t have them over here. At least not as far as we can tell. You’d have the market to yourself!
The next day, we schlepped our insane amount of luggage onto the fastest train I’ve ever been on, and took the TGV from Paris down to Avignon.
This train really does travel at just about 300 km/h, which is somewhere north of 180 miles per hour. The whole trip went by pretty fast, and apart from having to deal with our luggage, it was pretty uneventful. Also, this train did not have air conditioning (and at 180 mph, they don’t exactly let you open a window).
For lunch that day, I had this. Salad on Pizza.
Stef has done this for a long time. It always weirded me out, and would have given my grandparents heart attacks. I used to just chalk it up to “Stef being Stef,” but I guess I have to acknowledge it’s an actual thing now. Can’t say I loved it, but I didn’t feel like I needed to check myself into an insane asylum either – which is what I always thought needed to happen when Stef would put salad on Pizza.
Stage 2 – Mt Ventoux
If you’re a cycling buff, you’ve likely heard about Mt. Ventoux. It’s an iconic climb that’s regularly featured in the Tour de France, and it’s pretty unique looking. There’s no vegetation at all at the top, and the mountain stands alone – it’s not part of a range. It makes for a unique experience. At less than two thousand meters (6 thousand feet-ish), I thought this would be a piece of cake.
So yeah, Climbing Ventoux is hard. It was also incredibly HOT, HOT, HOT that day, which made it all the more difficult. It’s also pretty steep, which adds to the misery. Here’s the details on the climb:
But hey! They did have sort-of-cold Cokes at the top for a mere $2.50 Eurobucks a piece…
After summiting Ventoux, we still had about 45 miles to ride to our next hotel. Our route took us over the “Col de Hot”, and the “Col de Ridiculously Hot”. While not major climbs, these did provide the greatest opportunity for bitching thus far. It was about 135 degrees Celsius, 124% humidity, and 100 kilometers from anything, including water in non-vapor form. It was so hot and hazy, my phone was struggling to take a decent picture. I think the humidity had gotten inside.
But like all awful, awful climbs that make you want to burn your bicycle, these minor cols eventually came to an end, and we rolled into our next hotel where our luggage was waiting for us. From there, we had three more days of climbing (and bitching) ahead of us to make it to Alpe d’Huez.
But this post is getting a bit long, so I’ll close up for now, and leave you with this one last picture. Until next time!